Jessi Campbell Interview
I met Jessi Campbell in Minneapolis several years ago, though I do not remember this. I was working at The Joke Joint, and she was a Minneapolis resident. At some point between shows I meandered out to the lobby to find a gaggle of comedians sitting around, chatting amiably. I said some hellos, and then wandered my way back into the showroom. In all, I may have met six people within a total of two minutes. I would remember nothing of this meeting, being that six people within two minutes is too much for my feeble brain to absorb.
Jessi, however, remembers every single person she meets. “It’s creepy,” she explained. “I will remember details of a conversation from years ago, things no one else will ever remember.”
Jessi would make an excellent stalker.
When she reminded me of our meeting, I naturally brought up the Twin Cities, and was informed of a very important change in her life…
NT: When did you move to Los Angeles?
JC: We moved here at the beginning of June. (2010)
NT: A newbie to the city. How do you like it so far?
JC: So far, I actually really like it. I haven’t been here too much yet; when we moved here, I immediately went out on the road for five weeks, so I’ve kind of been in and out, but the last two weeks I’ve been home and really enjoying it.
NT: Wait until winter. You’ll go home to Minnesota and say, “Hey, I don’t have to deal with this shit anymore.”
JC: I actually just threw out the jug of de-icer I had in my car. Won’t be needing that anymore!
NT: You said, “We moved”; who’s the other person in that statement?
JC: I’m married.
NT: Ah, so lack of research on the interviewers part. Who followed who? Was it his career, your career, both?
JC: It was sort of my decision. I was feeling a little stagnant in Minnesota, and figured at some point it’s “now or never.” If you’re going to make a lateral move in comedy, it’s either New York or LA, and this is where we came.
NT: In choosing LA, do you hope to get into acting? What nudged that city into the winning circle when it came to moving?
JC: Patton Oswald has a quote, “People ask me if I did stand up, but I act to be able to do stand up.” It’s all about putting butts into seats. I took a commercial acting workshop, because… I mean, if Flo from the Progressive ads did stand up, she’d be making so much money. So while all I really want to do is stand-up, I want to do other things to help that. If I were to get a small part on a sit-com, I could absolutely work more. So I’m taking some Improv classes, because I want to stay in the world of comedy, under that umbrella.
NT: That makes me so happy, because I lived in LA for a while and the most frustrating thing was meeting people who would say, “Oh, I’m an actor, model, comic.” And I would think, ‘Why don’t you just pick one and do it well?’
JC: I did this showcase with a girl, who was really, really nice, and she’s a commercial actress, and she said, “Wow, you’re really funny.” And I said, “Thanks, I’m a stand up comic,” and she said, “Yeah, this is a really good way to just get your face out there.” She didn’t get it when I explained, “No, I mean this is what I do, this is what I really love doing.”
NT: I had a similar experience once at a showcase, where they introduced a guy who was in a really popular series of commercials at the time, and in my mind I went, “Oh, he’s gonna be good; he obviously got the commercial…” and he was awful, just awful. He wasn’t a comic, he was an actor just, like the girl you mentioned said, “getting his face out there,” and that was when I realized that LA is all about “a look.” It doesn’t matter if you have talent or not, if they need “that look,” you’ll fit their slot and they’ll use you.
JC: [laughs] Yeah, it kills me, and I take offense to that in a way, because this is my livelihood. I’m not doing it to “get my face out there,” this is what I love. But, I’m taking a commercial workshop…
NT: Which means there’s probably someone out there judging you the exact same way.
JC: [laughs] Right. [Adopts a snooty voice] “I do commercials for a living; you comics just do them for quick money…”
NT: When did you start doing comedy?
JC: I’ve been doing comedy for ten years, and moved to Minneapolis about four and a half years ago because of his job at the time. I’ve been doing it full time for about four or five years.
NT: Where did you get your start?
JC: I started in Arizona, in Tucson.
NT: Compare the Tucson and Minneapolis comedy scenes; how did each influence you?
JC: Well, I think they’re really, really different. Now Minneapolis has like five clubs; Tucson has always just has one. When you start out in comedy, there’s always that first little circuit you run, and back then there was a club in Arizona, a club in New Mexico, and a club in Colorado, and you’d do those. When I moved to Minnesota, in the Midwest there’s just so much to do; there are one nighters, so many clubs… when I moved I started working a lot more, which helped me develop. In Tucson, you could only go up one night a week, where in Minneapolis there are just so many more opportunities, and you can find an open mic every night of the week if you want.
NT: So Minneapolis really helped develop you.
JC: Yeah, I was just able to get on stage a lot more.
NT: The CD we’re about to promote, is this your first one?
JC: It’s my first real CD. I made one myself a long time ago, one I would pay people today to get back.
NT: There’s no shame in that, I think we all do it. I have one like that, and even Doug Stanhope has written about watching video of his first few years of comedy and then feeling bad for ripping on people just starting out today that he has ripped on.
JC: When you’re just starting out, you hear that you need one to sell when you go out on the road, and you realize later that was the worst idea ever.
NT: Because you’re putting something out that represents you poorly, leaving people with a bad taste in their mouth. What’s the title of the new CD?
JC: Winner Winner.
NT: The material you used on it: was it an accumulation of your entire ten years?
JC: There’s nothing in there that’s older than four or five years. I get bored really easily, and I don’t like doing the same material over and over, so I’d say there are probably three or four jokes that are four or five years old and the rest is within the past few years. I’m trying to think… there are a couple bits on there that are brand new, which I should have given more time to develop, but I get too excited and just want to do them.
NT: How long is the disc?
JC: I think exactly forty-five minutes, or just a little over.
NT: Break it down for me: what style of comedy do you perform, how many tracks are there… what can the listener expect?
JC: My comedy is a lot of stories, which made it hard to break down the CD. There are twenty-one tracks, and I had a tough time splitting up bits. I have a chunk of hunting material, where I talk about hunting and animals for about five or six minutes, but now I have to break that down and think, “OK, maybe these two jokes work together…” Same thing with my marriage material, which is eight minutes long, but will break down to four or five different tracks. I wasn’t sure exactly how to break them down, or how long the tracks were supposed to be, so I just did the best I could. Tracks three through six all fall within my block of “hunting material,” and it was really hard to break down the story into individual tracks. I think most of the bits I ended up with are around one or two minutes long, but there are a couple tracks that are four minutes, which are each one story I just couldn’t break down any further.
Nathan Timmel was the fella who yapped at her over the phone and typed this little segment up.